Young Pilate the orator

The stately carriage of an orator draped in a toga secured on his shoulder with a fibula perfectly matches the image of a prominent politician and military commander such as the young Pontius Pilate, a procurator and a prefect of a large Roman province. An authoritative gesture of the arm raised sideways and a sharp turn of the head in the same direction lend to the posture an air of dictatorial assertiveness. The lean frame and elongated proportions of the figure indicate Pilate’s agility, both physical and mental, whereas the orator is confident of the choice of the direction of this cumulative movement. It seems that presently Pilate believes he is party to the everyday currents of life. Only when we know what actually lies ahead for him can we appreciate, not without a grain of compassion for this essentially passive character, the depth of his delusion. His single-mindedness, conveyed through a combination of the austere vertical and horizontal rhythms with stiffly modelled forms, precludes Pilate from being flexible in decision-making but empowers him when he works for his goals removing all obstacles. The stately arc of his sagging mantle somewhat softens the image while lending to him an air of self-sufficiency. Priority is assigned to the assertive vertical axis, dramatized by a quadrangular ornament on the hem of the mantle. Thus, certain elements in the depiction of the hard-headed individual vaguely foreshadow the future, when Pilate, after Jesus’s execution, would be beset by doubts.

Brief annotations to the image

PONTIUS PILATE was the fifth Roman procurator at Judaea, Samaria and Edom under the Emperor Tiberius. The protracted term of his office signals his competence as a governor. In 1961 a stone was discovered with an inscription which revealed that Pilate was not only a procurator but also a prefect at Judaea. He was directly involved in the detention, trial and execution of Jesus Christ.

ORATOR (TOGATUS) is a type of ancient Roman statues, an erect figure draped in a toga, a sculpture designed to glorify famous orators, politicians and military chiefs. The toga, a garment indicating the subject’s high rank and distinguishing the Romans from the Barbarians, was a token of the dresser’s accomplishments and elevated standing in the hierarchy.